Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published: Macmillan Au April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 30 to April 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“Why do we write fiction?” Professor Piper asked.
Cath looked down at her notebook.

To disappear.”

Cather is comfortable escaping into the realm of anonymous fanfic where she can be free of her crippling social anxiety, and always know what to say and do. College is nothing but uncomfortable, and it is all she can do, while struggling with the separation from her twin sister, Wren, and her father, to make it to her classes. But gradually, Cath is forced out of her comfort zone, encouraged by her roommate Reagan and the irrepressible Levi, in this charming contemporary novel by Rainbow Rowell.

I wavered between wanting to shake or hug Cath a lot of the time. Though I thought her sweetly shy and endearingly awkward, smart and often funny, her naivety sometimes stretched credulity. There were things I could relate to though, like this;

“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?” (on why Cath avoids the dining hall)

I remember that anxiety when I first went to university and having to force myself to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Cath really struggles with the changes college forces on her and it’s a slow, sometimes frustrating, transformation but I think Rowell handles it realistically and thankfully she has Reagan to look out for her;

“Cath rolled her eyes and looked at Reagan. “Do you really want me asking you stupid questions?”
“If they’re about food, water, air or shelter – yes. Jesus, Cath, I’m your roommate.”

Reagan is the perfect roommate for Cath – often absent allowing her the time on her own she craves but doesn’t hesitate to call Cath out on her ‘crazy’, in a blunt but non-judgmental way.

I loved the relationship between Cath and Levi, so much awkward cuteness. Their romance is sweet, moving from acquaintance to friendship to lovers without feeling rushed or forced. And even though he screws up quite badly at one point, Levi with his goofy, ever-present smile, is just so appealing.

I really wasn’t a fan of the fan fiction excerpts, the whole Simon Snow/Harry Potter thing made me feel a little uncomfortable. And I have to admit I don’t really get the whole fan fiction scene anyway, though I know it is huge and I respect Cath’s passion for it. The plagiarism debate that takes place between Cath and her professor seemed disingenuous, I found it hard to believe, no matter her private opinion, that Cath would have thought her fanfic be acceptable for an assignment specifically asking for an original story.

The scenes I particularly enjoyed included those where Cath was reading aloud to Levi, her Emergency Kanye Dance Party (though Kanye… ugh) and her and Reagan’s cafeteria observations (a friend and I used to do that too).

Unusually for YA/NA fiction, Cath’s family has an important role in this story. Cath’s identical twin, Wren, (get it? Cather..Wren) is also a freshman but unlike her sister Wren is eager to establish her independence and reinvent herself in their new environment, which means leaving Cath behind. The dynamics between the sisters is realistic I think, with its mix of love and resentment, complicated particularly by their oppositional feelings about their absent mother. The girls father, who is bipolar, is very much present through the book through phone calls, messages and trips home.

Fangirl isn’t perfect, but it is a sweet, funny and moving coming of age novel. I’d certainly recommend it for young adults on the cusp of graduation and those struggling with the transition to college, but it is also a charming read in it’s own right for anyone who remembers stepping nervously into the college dining hall for the first time.

Fangirl is available to purchase from

Pan Macmillan I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Amazon US

  via Booko

 

 

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Teddyree
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 22:16:35

    Eleanor and Park made me an instant Rainbow Rowell fan. I’ll definitely be reading this one Shelleyrae, lovely review!

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  2. Chrystal @ Snowdrop Dreams of Books
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 23:35:42

    I still need to read this one. I really enjoyed your thoughts on it. :)

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  3. laurelrainsnow
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 01:31:02

    I am not quite sure why fan fiction is such a fad (that word is so not cool, right?)…but then again, I’m past the age of being “trendy.” LOL

    But I’m looking forward to reading this one, which I have on Sparky; I loved Attachments by this author. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. Greg
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 04:15:13

    Nice review, I agree with a lot of your observations. Loved Reagan, she had Cath’s back and that was nice. The cafeteria observations cracked me up too- and the fanfic parts were not my thing either, although I know some people like em.

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  5. Kailana
    Apr 10, 2014 @ 02:35:11

    I listened to this on audio at the beginning of the year and had fun with it. Rowell does good.

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  6. kathrynsinbox
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 20:56:46

    I read this one a little while ago and loved it–I have to agree with you about the fanfiction, though. It really did not hold my interest as well as the rest of the story. The names of Cath and her sister did make me cringe just a little, for the obvious reason.

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